Doc Rivers said his Boston Celtics just didnt have it after a blowout loss to the Sixers earlier this month.
Following Fridays trip the Wells Fargo Center, the Celtics still dont have what they ultimately want: an Atlantic Division lead.
The Sixers blew open a gritty game with a big third-quarter run in a 99-86 victory over the Celtics, pushing their division lead back to 1 games.
What a great night. To beat the Celtics, this is twice theyve come in here and had a chance to knock us out of first place and both times weve taken care of business, Sixers head coach Doug Collins said.
The win was also the 400th of Collins career.
It definitely is good to be a part of someones accomplishments, Andre Iguodala said. Just like he feels good when one of us has a goal of ours. Not only do the players play for each other, but everyone is involved in this.
I just wanted to come up and congratulate coach Collins for his 400th win, Sixers co-owner Will Smith said. For me this an absolutely ridiculous way to be here for coach, and Im the owner of my hometown team, sitting on the floor. We beat Boston. Larry Bird ruined my childhood, so this is like fantastic. Coach, congratulations and Im happy to be here.
That excitement level wasnt contained to the teams front office. The players showed the pleasure on their faces as their recently moribund offense found an extra gear in the third quarter.
The Sixers outscored the Celtics 37-17 in the third quarter, including a 19-6 run over the final 6:47 of the frame to erase a six-point halftime deficit and seize control.
Coach gave some statistics about how theyre the winningest team in the third quarter. They dont win any quarter but the third, Elton Brand said. I was like, wow. That means we need to win this third.
For our guys, I thought we played a great second half, Collins said. The first half we had some point-blank shots. We took 52 shots in the first half. I just told our guys we just got to get our mojo back.
Collins group certainly did that. The Sixers took advantage of a Boston team on the final leg of an eight-game road trip and without an injured Ray Allen, racing to an 18-3 advantage in fast-break points.
The Sixers also dominated down low. Just one game after Collins explained that the new scouting report on his team was to be physical at every turn, the Sixers flexed some muscle of their own against the tough Celtics.
Brand notched 20 points and Spencer Hawes added a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), as the Sixers dominated the battle of points in the paint, 46-24. They out-rebounded Boston, too (46-35), on the way to the crucial win.
This is the E.B. that weve seen recently that was so good for us last year, Collins said. He had such a great year for us and were hoping here now coming down the stretch, getting Spencer back, that the effort continues. Spencer was still a little bit out of sync, but I thought in the second half he got himself going. He got 10 rebounds tonight and we out-rebound them by 11, which was important. Our bigs are so vital to our team.
The centers and seven-footers get to beat him up a little bit instead of me banging with them, Brand laughed of finding a groove with the oft-injured Hawes. He really stepped up and played a great game. He wasnt playing as great as we knew he could play so he really stepped up for us tonight. That was a great positive for us tonight.
The Sixers appeared to on the verge of making a crucial run earlier in the game, rallying from a double-digit deficit, before a scary injury to Boston swingman Mickael Pietrus slowed things down (see story).
However, the team was able to keep things moving after intermission and orchestrate its offensive attack.
Did Thursdays team meeting do the trick?
The team meeting, a little bit blown out of proportion, Brand said. We know what we needed to work on so we just talked about it. Hey, we need to execute. This is the same team that scored 100 points last season, same personnel now that Spencers back. Lets back cut, lets get open, lets set picks and play the game the way we know we can play.
The Sixers will continue on to play as leaders of the Atlantic Divison. Even if their latest victory came at an inopportune time for Celtics, dont expect any apologies.
Theyre on a back-to-back, theyre missing Ray Allen, but whatever. We needed a win, Brand said. We needed a win. We wanted to separate ourselves. We have a tough game at San Antonio coming up so it was good to get this win at home in front of our crowd and get some separation.